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OPINION

Menthol cigarette ban is racist paternalism

Posted on April 29, 2021

OpinionColumns

Thomas L. Knapp

Thomas L. Knapp

The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, reports that the Biden administration is poised to propose a ban on menthol cigarettes.

The reason? Well, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 85% of Black smokers choose the flavored cigarettes over “plain” tobacco, versus 29% of white smokers.

In the fantasy world that Joe Biden (and the anti-tobacco crusaders and fake civil rights advocates who have his ear) live in, a menthol cigarette ban will “protect” the Black community from the effects of “aggressive marketing” by the tobacco industry, whether that community really wants to be “protected” or not.

In the real world, what Biden and company are saying is that Black Americans are too stupid to make the “right” choices on their own and government must therefore make those choices for them.

There’s a word for that kind of attitude toward people based on skin color.  The word is “racism.”

Not that Biden’s racism has ever been a secret. In 1986, he led the legislative fight to punish Black cocaine users (who, on average, preferred their cocaine in “rock,” or “crack” form) more harshly than white cocaine users (who, on average, preferred their coke in powder form).

Oh, he apologized, 16 years later, saying he’d made a “profound mistake.” But he obviously neither learned from that mistake nor reconsidered his racist attitudes. By 2020 he was claiming the expertise to evaluate the “Blackness” of voters based on their choice of presidential candidate.

In addition to believing that Black Americans are too stupid to be allowed to make their own choices on smoking, Biden apparently also believes they’re too stupid to figure out that they can “season” plain tobacco cigarettes with menthol flavoring from crushable capsules or eye-droppers.

A federal ban on menthol cigarettes will be even less effective as a way of reducing tobacco use among Black Americans than higher mandatory minimum sentences were as a way of reducing drug use among Black Americans.

If there’s an upside to Biden’s continuing racism, it’s that he’s gone from harshly punitive to annoyingly paternalistic. Instead of throwing Black Americans in prison cells for endless years to punish them for their choices, he just wants to inflict endless minutes of inconvenience on them in the name of “helping” them.

As a menthol smoker myself, I have to hope that “cancel culture” swings into action and deplatforms Biden over this racist silliness.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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